Taking Stock: The Constructivist Research Program in International Relations and Comparative Politics

  • Citation: Finnemore, Martha and Kathryn Sikkink. "Taking stock: the constructivist research program in international relations and comparative politics." Annual Review of Political Science 4.1 (2001)
    • Topics:
    • IR Theories
    • Keywords:
    • constructivism
    • ideas
    • identity
    • norms
    • culture
    • beliefs

Constructivism is an approach to social analysis that deals with the role of human consciousness in social life. It asserts that human interaction is shaped primarily by ideational factors, not simply material ones; that the most important ideational factors are widely shared or “intersubjective” beliefs, which are not reducible to individuals; and that these shared beliefs construct the interests of purposive actors. In international relations, research in a constructivist mode has exploded over the past decade, creating new and potentially fruitful connections with long-standing interest in these issues in comparative politics. In this essay, we evaluate the empirical research program of constructivism in these two fields. We first lay out the basic tenets of constructivism and examine their implications for research methodology, concluding that constructivism’s distinctiveness lies in its theoretical arguments, not in its empirical research strategies. The bulk of the essay explores specific constructivist literatures and debates in international relations and comparative politics.

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